Extinct #02: FRANCO-PROVENÇAL

in OCDlast year

In Switzerland there are four national languages: German, Italian, French and Romansh. What even many Swiss don't know is that there is another language in French-speaking Switzerland: Franco-Provençal or Patois.

Admittedly, Franco-Provençal is not yet completely extinct. It is much more like a language zombie: It is still spoken in individual villages such as Evolene and there are numerous initiatives to preserve the language: for example, there are now plays and exhibitions in Patois and Radio Fribourg broadcasts a Franco-Provençal programme for half an hour every Sunday. Nevertheless, the language is doomed and will probably be completely replaced by French in the future.

Arpitan_francoprovencal_map.jpg
Different Patois dialects are spoken in this area.

Even 200 years ago, the patois was better off: it was the main language between Grenoble and Fribourg, between the Neuchâtel Jura and the Aosta Valley in Italy. Patois, by the way, is not a French dialect but has developed from Late Latin into an independent language, which is about as similar to French as it is to Romansh.

The decline of Franco-Provençal began with the introduction of compulsory education. The language of instruction was French, the language of the educated. Anyone who spoke Patois was defamed and labelled a hillbilly. At school, neither teachers nor pupils were allowed to speak Patois. This ban was only lifted in the 20th century; much too late to reclaim its ancestral place.

Nevertheless, the negative connotation of patois has since been dispelled and it is now considered a cultural heritage in Switzerland. For example, the radio has made hundreds of sound recordings of the various dialects of the patois for fear of losing this linguistic treasure. Now I would like to show you some examples so that you can get a better idea of the tonality of the patois. The interviewers / narrators speak French; pay attention to the contrast:


In the article series "Extinct" I write about the phenomenon of the extinction of animals and languages.